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fear and loathing in …

published: 2012-09-21

The man who lives across the street opened the door. He has two children and a wife. I felt awkward meeting them. Often, I catch myself staring mindlessly into their home while I’m on my small balcony thinking over a few things, or watering plants, or smoking.
His daughter is always on their balcony. She has stringy blonde hair and wears flowered t-shirts but with wellington boots. She is always quietly observing what is going on in our street. I like that.
Of course she knows that I too have a blonde kid. And that he’s not always here. So after asking them whether they’d be willing to take care of the cat I’m about to get – for my son, for myself maybe – I felt I owed them an explanation. I’m not sure why. But here it was:
“I’m sure you’ve seen my son,” – my neighbour reacted in a yes-sure-maybe kind of way – “well and so he’s not always with me. I mean… he’s with his dad half the time. ALMOST half the time, that is to say. He’s with me slightly more. Thank god, right? Ha-ha..” – my neighbour still seemed unphased, he didn’t say anything, simply stood there with his daughter, his arms around her shoulders, while his son hopped from one leg to the next listening intently – “and so I’m not always home either. I eh- travel a lot. For work. Sometimes there’s a man too, you’ve seen him, right?” – my neighbour shrugs his shoulders – “well that isn’t my son’s dad. That’s my (partner? lover? no!) boyfriend. But my ex and I are really good friends (are we? No we’re not). Luckily.”
Finally, my neighbour speaks. He looks at me as if I told him a silly joke, “everyone does that these days, right? So many friends of mine have separated and then they stay friends. It makes you wonder why they separated in the first place.”
I smiled back.
“Yes, well. Off I go then! I’ll let you know once we have the cat so your kids can come meet her.”
I turned on my heels, walked back to my house on the opposite side of the street. Aware of the picture I left behind: Dad with his arms around his daughter. And son. Dad had said he was about to cook. I had said I was going to do some work.

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